On Saturday I had to stop by Best Buy to pick up ink cartridges for my printer. I left with an iPad 2! I had been debating whether or not I would consider purchasing one a few days earlier but had convinced myself that I just didn’t need one. When I stopped by Best Buy I had no intention of purchasing an iPad 2, but once I saw they had quite a few in stock (and I knew most other places sold out the day prior), I let the inner geek take control (and to be honest after purchasing I felt dirty!). There have already been a ton of writeups/reviews about the iPad 2 already so there is no need for more of the same. However, since most people who follow my writings know I focus heavily on streaming media to the TV, I thought instead I would take a look at one of the new features of the iPad 2, the ability to connect the iPad to a TV via HDMI. I decided to test out two different scenarios where I could see myself streaming from an iPad 2 to a TV. (1) Content stored directly on my iPad 2 and (2) Content streamed from the Netflix App.
Connecting The iPad 2 Via HDMI
To be able to connect the iPad 2 to a TV via HDMI requires the Apple Digital AV Adapter (In typical Apple fashion it is overpriced at $39.00). Simply connect the Adapter to the iPad. There is then a input on the adapter to connect the HDMI cable to with the other end of the HDMI cable going in to the TV or Receiver (in my case it went directly into my Onkyo Receiver)
Once the HDMI connection has been made you should now see a mirror image of the iPad iOS on your TV. Unfortunately it gets displayed at what appears to be 4:3
Test 1 – Playback Of Locally Stored Media
With the iPad 2 connected I navigated to my Video Library (all navigation is obviously done via the iPad 2). As you can see once again the Video Library on the iPad 2 is mirrored on the TV.
Now for the big test, would initiating playback on the iPad 2 mirror back to the TV. More importantly, would I be stuck watching playback in 4:3, which would be a deal breaker. Well, the good news is playback happened seamlessly on the TV, and the output automatically adjusted to fill the screen. Once playback begins the iPad 2 no longer mirrors the TV but instead goes black, just showing playback and volume controls. Picture quality looked very good considering the video files on the iPad 2 had been encoded down (using the Universal preset in Handbrake). I also confirmed that the same process worked streaming from my Windows Home Server via Air Video.
Test 2 – Playback Of Netflix
Next up was to see if playing back content from my Netflix account would work as seamless as with local content. Loading the Netflix app the red Netflix logo appears on the TV whilst on the iPad 2 you can navigate around your Netflix queue.
I had a Scooby Doo movie already sitting in my queue, so I decided to use that as my test. Sure enough, once playback was initiated Scooby Doo was streaming on my TV, and once again the iPad simply displays the volume/playback controls. Since the Netflix stream was standard definition it looked better on the iPad 2 then when it was blown up on my TV, but it was still watchable.
The iPad 2 performed as expected, mirroring content directly from the iPad 2 to a connected TV via HDMI. Unfortunately since it is running iOS 4.3 I cannot jailbreak it yet, so I couldn’t confirm how well it would handle my 1080p content. I would have much preferred that either the HDMI input was built in to the iPad 2 or that the Adapter was included. Realistically I don’t see myself connecting my iPad 2 to my TV at home. However, with two young kids and some traveling I do for work I am always on the lookout for a good mobile jukebox, and with that the iPad 2 fit the bill. Whether or not you are an Apple fan (which I am not) the fact of the matter is at present there is no match for the iPad in the tablet arena. From what I have read/heard the Motorola Xoom has been a bust, and Honeycomb has been buggy/unstable. I was hoping to hold out longer to see what all the new tablets which are supposedly hitting the market this year bring to the table, but I think at present it is obvious that they will all just be playing catchup in the short term.
Whenever I go to Best Buy I try to prepare myself for some of the “professional” speak I overhear from employees. Maybe I am a tech snob, but I have learned to just bite my tongue. As always happens though, I overheard a conversation while waiting in line to pay for the iPad that once again just had me shaking my head. An older female had purchased an iPad 2 the day prior. While using it at home that night she was having difficulties with the iPad 2 dropping her wireless signal. She came back to the store and explained her issue to the Best Buy Apple employee. He asked one question, what type of router did she have. She answered that she had a 2 year old Netgear router. From that answer he “knew” right away it was the router. He told her she needed to purchase an Apple AirPort Extreme wireless router. The “other” routers don’t last as long and the AirPort Extreme would solve her problem. I am not saying that her router wasn’t the issue, I just found it amusing that from one question the Employee was able to so easily troubleshoot a problem that can have many factors involved. I guess that is why I never got that Best Buy job I applied for
Even better though was the shocked look I was given when I said I didn’t want to buy a case or the Best Buy protection program! To top it off when I was offered the Buy Back Program I once again said no thank you and mentioned I could easily get more from eBay or other. With that I was greeted by a snarky response from the Employee that “Maybe you will and maybe you won’t”. That was pretty amusing considering that (a) you need to pay $69.99 for the program which already cuts into how much you would effectively get back by a good 10% and (b) the Buy Back percentages used to calculate your return easily come in lower then what you find online. To do the math, if you had purchased the 32GB 3G model 8 months ago it would have cost you $729. Using Best Buy’s buyback calculator this would net you $291 (40%). Back out the fee to participate in the program and you are left with $221, a far cry from the $350 – $450 price being seen on eBay now.
OK, rant over